Attracted to Irish music
What first attracted you to Irish music, was it a recording, live performance, or whatever and how long before you decided you wanted to play it.
What first attracted you to Irish music, was it a recording, live performance, or whatever and how long before you decided you wanted to play it.
I was 2 years old when it first stood out to me as something different. I used to hear it on BBC radio. As a kid I truly believed it to be ‘magic music’, and I have loved it ever since. Although I have always played other music it never occurred to me that it was even possible for me to play ITM until I first started following this site, maybe 15 years or so ago. Before then I couldn’t work it out and wrote it off as something too difficult. And it was only after I became inspired by certain earlier members of this site that I thought to try out the fiddle. I have never looked back. It has been an unbelievable gift in my life.
Lovely story Gobby, wow! you were hooked very young.
I knew some fiddlers that played it and I didn’t know what it was. I got introduced to the Bothy Band and since I already played flute, I was keen to learn those tunes! I was around 30 and I turned 68 last Tuesday. It was more infectious than Covid-19.
I heard this sound coming from the other room in the pub back in the mid eighties.
Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick at a folk club in the late 60’s - I’d never heard anything like it before. Soon after I heard Cathal McConnell and Robin Morton on the radio, shortly followed by the Chieftains - but it was actually a couple of Englishmen who started me on this journey!
I always left a silver flute on the shelf to play along with tunes on the radio. I never really enjoyed Irish trad until one day I heard KILA. Later that day I went into our nearest Metropolis..[Longford] and bought the record and that was the start of my adventure. I was only about 55 then…the house is full of wooden flutes now and I never play the silver flute
In my case a session. 1984, Melbourne, Dan O‘Connell Pub. The weekly session was anchored by members of ’Poteen’, the local gun trad band. For musicianship and general wow-factor, it was absolutely top-shelf.
I started playing then. With some breaks taken, I’m still playing. Thanks guys.
We started going to Sea Chantey Night at a localish (an hour away) pub. Not everything they do is sea Chanteys though; probably close to half is post-folk revival style Irish pub songs. So I started listening to the Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers and those types of groups, and from there it’s not far to Planxty, Bothy Band, etc.
I always knew about Irish sessions because my wife had dabbled years before, but suddenly I was taken with the idea. I thought I’d go to one or two sessions and get it out of my system. Instead it has consumed me for almost three years since I started.
The ethereal sound of the wire harp…probably played by Patrick Ball, Derek Bell.. Probably heard sea shanties prior to that, but the wire harp was it.
When I was growing up (in Birmingham) my dad used to put on occasional Scottish bagpipe music as a break from his habitual Mozart, Bach etc. It gave me the shivers! When I told my mum she said “Ah it’s your Scottish blood” and I was really proud! But it was the Irish music that really got to me and got me playing, years later when I was a student. I started with the whistle - first tunes: Harvest Home/Boys of Blue Hill, Roisin Dhu, Saddle the Pony, mostly learnt at a Sunday afternoon session in one of the local pubs. It has stayed with me of course, over half a century now, and has accompanied me through my move to France, on mega mountain treks (humming jigs is great for keeping a steady pace!), through last year’s chemotherapy and this year’s lockdown - quite honestly I can’t imagine what life would have been like without it. I’m still playing, still learning, still marveling at the joy contained in this wonderful music.
Thank you all you players out there, and Jeremy for this great site, and Goose for asking the question! (By the way, are you going to answer it yourself?)
For me, it was my (now) ex-wife, who was Asian, but also taught Irish step dancing (she used to joke that she was from Eastern Ireland). I was getting out of the music scene I was in for a long time about the time we started dating. (I had owned nightclubs and restaurants, was a club DJ for 20+ years, and was a DJ on a fairly well known alternative rock radio station). So she introduced me to trad music, which was not really to my taste at the beginning. But we honeymooned in Ireland, and were with some musician friends (Matt & Shannon Heaton, actually) for about a week of our time in Ireland, and that’s where I caught the bug.
Early on, music from bands like Altan, Lunasa, and Dervish was a bit of a gateway drug for me. The energy and twisty little melodies reminded me of some of the energy that I found with industrial and techno music that I was familiar with at the time, but it had the added bonus of actually being played by humans instead of computers. And from there, another thing that drew me to the music was that it wasn’t about money or fame or ego, rather, it was about community and sharing. It blew me away how accessible the “famous players” are, and how encouraging everybody was to people that were just starting to learn in general.
It has now been 20+ years, and the music has become a real solid foundation of my life. So much so that I don’t have any other music in my life anymore, because there is no need. 😀
Alison, what a lovely story. My attraction to music was being at a house wedding in Ireland, wedding receptions were held in houses back then, there was a melodion player supplying the music, and I never left his side throughout the day, I was hooked. Then when I heard the great Paddy O’Brien (Tipperary) on the radio it was when I decided that I wanted to learn, and I’m still learning (aren’t we all) I loved all the great players that were around then ie Sean Ryan Paddy Canny Leo Rowsome Seamus Ennis Paddy Carty Paddy Murphy etc.
My first exposure to Irish music was listening to Radio Éireann on a Saturday night. We could pick it up in Inverness after dark although I’m sure many would be able to get an even better signal in the South West of Scotland.
Then I heard the likes of The Dubliners, Clancys and so on during the sixties, The Bothy Band and Planxty in the seventies and so on. Thereafter, I always enjoyed the listening to “the tunes” in sessions and so on although I didn’t know much about them at the time. They just sounded good.
Anyway, it was a gradual thing as was my attraction to Scottish music. Of course, I grew up with certain varieties of Scottish music but like many young people I rejected it during my teenage years. However, I regained an interest after visiting local folk clubs and festivals in the early seventies and especially when bands such as Silly Wizard, Ossian, etc to name but a few began to emerge.
I had been playing mostly acoustic blues music on guitar, but borrowed a mandolin, and while looking for something to play on it found O‘Neill’s music of Ireland. I was heard playing “Doctor O’Neill’s Jig” and invited to a session in Madison WI about 1983. That got me started, but what really cemented the change (from blues to ITM) was hearing a small room concert with Kevin Burke & Micheal O’Domhnaill in Madison that year.
They must have been touring for their album “Portland”. Their music touched me like no music I had experienced before. I decided that as much as I loved country blues music, I couldn’t perform it with
any authenticity (as a white math geek), and ITM was a much better fit to “me”.
I now play mostly C#/D button box, concertina, and tenor banjo, but still get out the mandolin from
time to time. (The only other music that touches me nearly as much is west African music, so I have studied the kora with Mamadou Diabate, and my current kora teacher, David Gilden. )
Listened to Planxty, The Well Below the Valley, 1974.
Picked up tin whistle, 1978, I think.
I suppose my interest in it came by stages over quite a few years, but I had started going to folk clubs as a teenager in the 60s. My first Irish LP was the McPeake family, simply called “Irish Folk”, but not actually all Irish content: it was released in 1964. I first went to Ireland in 1967, and again in 1969 and 1970, when I would have heard more Irish music. However, I do remember being hugely disappointed at those pubs displaying blackboards outside - “Ballads tonight!!” - and finding they were singing Frank Sinatra, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones songs!
But then along came the Dubliners and other Irish bands. I remember being “blown away” (pardon the pun!) by hearing first Finbar Furey, and later, Liam O’Flynn on the Uilleann pipes. A “taster workshop” at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections confirmed that my hands didn’t have enough stretch!
Bought my first buttonbox about 15 years ago, and play a wide variety of different nations’ tunes, but a big majority for Scottish and Irish.
I grew up in Dublin and my family were mostly ballad singers, my gran knew Ronnie Drew very well back in the day. I ended up playing in punk bands meself, but then in 2002 was down in East Galway fixing up a derelict old farmhouse and had a telly on in the corner to keep me company - there was a programme on TG4 about regional fiddle styles and I was hooked. Picked up a fiddle for cheap and played that for a couple of years, then got a tenor banjo and mandolin. Saw an ad in the Galway Advertiser for banjo lessons “contact Angelina” and was lucky enough to take lessons with Angelina Carberry for about a year before emigrating to the States.
Went to a typical rowdy Saint Patrick´s Day bash in ´73. Got lucky and heard a local trad group, complete with a piper. Found Finbar Furey on a recording playing like a madman and was totally taken. Sorted mail all through the ´80´s listening to The Bothy Band and Planxty while I struggled with the pipes. Since then it´s been trad, trad, and more trad.
I was walking down Church Street in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh on a summer’s day in 1975 and heard music playing that immediately got my attention. I could tell it was some kind of bagpipe, but not like the ones I had seen and heard previously. Turns out it was a record shop with the door open on a nice day. I had to stop in and see what was playing , and it was Planxty’s “Well Below the Valley” album. I bought it on the spot, along with another recommendation of Éamon De Buitléar & Ceoltóirí Laighean’s “An Bóthar Cam” album. I am forever grateful for that record store and the good taste of the shop owner that day. Sadly, the record shop is long gone now.
No unlike our Reverend, a talented, intelligent, and sensitive banjo player…hold your tongu, it happens…I was walking away from music I’ve played all my life. I still liked/like it but more as a listener now. (Oh and I guess I’m really not any of those things!) Then I got a bit drunk one night and heard Irish Trad playing in the background. I liked it as much as I liked the single malts we were drinking and I like the whisky a lot. There were relatively clean melodies using the same notes, in mostly the same structures, the I’d been playing for decades, in a way that sounds, well, different.For sure the theory was the same but to my ear it was not. What a challenge! Like a new language that uses the same words with a new way of thinking. Can’t explain it, it’s like a zen thing. So I did what EVERY FREAKIN’BODY else does, I bought a whistle and a couple of CD’s. I started hanging out at the nearest (only) session it town. Out of nowhere one of the 2 fiddlers asked me if I played. By then I’d started playing a flute. I said yes, but not well. He invited me to sit in anyway, generous soul. Waddayaknow, I really was bad. so I sat there like a sponge for the next 2 years…really. That was 15 years ago. Never regretted a minute of it.
Can I deviate again and reveal my split personality, i.e. split between tunes and songs. I was sitting in a session at Sidmouth Festival (Devon, England), where folks were playing Irish tunes, and in those days my main instruments were bodhran and guitar (both played oh so sympathetically and only if I knew the tune - viz. other threads!)
Then suddenly, from 3 steps down into the adjacent bar, this phenomenal wall of sound hit me, drowned out all the instrumental playing in our session: this was the Middle Bar Singers, a motley group of anyone who cares to come along, singing unaccompanied (instruments banned). Some amazing chorus songs with spontaneous harmonies: songs from all over, predominately English, but a fair few from Ireland and elsewhere. Another “Road to Damascus” or “Eureka” moment for me. 20 years ago now.
Both sides of the coin work for me, which is why I still favour mixed tune/song sessions over any that are exclusively one or the other.
My uncle is Tom Landa, the leader of a band called The Paperboys. I grew up listening to their music, which is influenced by Celtic music, among other genres.
When my grandpa died, I inherited all of his whistles, and I was inspired to start learning to play them. The first tune I ever learnt was Cooley’s Reel.
Like Alison my father had a interesting record collection and as a kid I would drag out a pile of albums (big round black plastic things that rotate and somehow create music) and listen to Bach, Strauss, German polka bands, Mexican mariachi bands, choral music, brass ensembles, pipe organ, folk singers…and Scottish bagpipes.
But no Irish music!
For that, back in the early 1970s they used to have a program on TV, 6:30am on Sunday morning, that featured a different musician or group each week. I heard The Canadian Brass, and E Power Biggs, and Baroque ensembles, and all sorts of things.
Well one Sunday they had an intriguing Baroque ensemble. Or that was what it seemed to be: there were violins and a wooden flute and a harp. But there were two strange instruments, a little drum and some strange kind of bagpipe. I was amazed! They were called The Chieftains.
Mine may be a little off the track here but it may be interesting for some 🙂 I grew up in a “third world” country and had no idea about European folk music or even classical for that matter till I was 18, where I chanced upon an event where someone played a clip of The Corrs playing Toss the Feathers. I was immediately awestruck by this new kind of music. For more than a year I kept listening to all their tracks that had trad tunes thinking they were all their compositions!
Then one fine day I saw a track named Toss the Feather on the inter webs and it was not by The Corrs! That made me dig more until I found out it’s all folk music of Ireland!
10 years down I am playing my wooden flute as I am writing this ;)
Another interesting anecdote if you have come this far… I had no concept of multiple tunes being played in one “song” so the first time I got an album of The Bothy Band in my Winamp library, I immediately deleted all tune names except the first, from all tracks thinking they are just three names of one piece :D ….had to correct it a couple months later. Good ol’ days.
My first exposure to Irish music was with the old Popeye cartoons. I loved the way the background music sounded and as a kid had no clue that the music was in an Irish style.
Later in 8th grade I made first chair in Hawaii’s all-state band playing baritone horn (euphonium) and was exposed to ’Folk Song Suite“ and the suites for military band written by Gustav Holst (the same guy who wrote ”The Planets"). These pieces have a lot of different folk tunes that were orchestrated and arranged for symphonic bands.
I remember the bassoon soloist playing The Dargason as a solo to introduce a section of the orchestration and how envious I was that they got the ‘cool’ melody part. I got to play a few good solos on the baritone horn but nothing as catchy and groovy as what the bassoonist got.
In fact The Dargason was the first Irish tune I worked out by ear and I still play it.
Later in college I bought a Mel Bay book of Irish tunes and played through them with the person who would later become my wife. She’s a fantastic flute player and reader and with only one flute between us I ended up playing guitar to back her up or playing her flute solo.
After getting married I came across a Clark original whistle and really took to it. I played Irish music solo for years and have amassed a fairly large collection of whistles.
It wasn’t until I discovered Chiff and Fipple that I met others who enjoyed and played Irish music.
Along the way I’ve learned to play English concertina, fiddle, mandolin, and lately, the simple system flute. I have a 6 key M&E flute on its way to me now .
I still haven’t been to a proper session, but it is on my bucket list.
I didn’t grow up around Irish traditional music, but my family are Lithuanian and so I did grow up with Lithuanian traditional songs, many of which I really liked. My very minimal exposure to Irish music came from a toy I had when I was much younger, called music blocks, which had different cartridges with different music styles, one of which was “Irish jig.” You could re-arrange the blocks to make different combinations, and I later learned that the jigs from that toy were Paddy oBrien’s, Scatter the Mud, and Arthur Darley’s. My parents also have quite a few classical music albums, which I really like. Perhaps these are the reasons why I have a soft spot for this music today.
Five years ago, I was alone one Saturday evening when I decided to look up “Irish jigs” on YouTube, figuring I’d perhaps just listen to some videos and move on to something else. I haven’t “moved on” yet.
As per TradLad, I also had never heard of the idea of more than one song on one track. I have a lot of bird cds in which a track for a particular bird would start with one variation of the song/call, followed by a pause and one or more other variations, but besides that, I just knew a song as a song.
My first exposure to Irish music was Derek Bell playing Blind Mary on a steel strung harp…. I was captivated.
Tradlad makes a good point, when I first heard The Chieftains I thought it was through-composed music like a Baroque suite. It wasn’t until later that I found out that in fact each “piece” was cobbled together from several traditional tunes.
Ditto when people coming from symphonic music hear a Highland pipe band competition, in which each band plays a medley. The symphonic person usually perceives it as being a through-composed piece, and has to be informed that it’s a medley of individual tunes.
You can debate that their music is not VERY Irish (I mean, a good bit is, but it’s not straight ITM…) but I was first drawn to fiddle music via the Leahy family when I was 10. Before then, I don’t recall giving music a second thought. My grandparents mailed my dad a copy of a live Leahy concert, and I watched it again and again (and I still watch it on a very regular basis). It literally transformed my life, my dreams, my ambitions. I still thank God that we got that DVD—if we hadn’t, who knows if or when I would have discovered the music in me?! I wouldn’t be the same person today, really.
Listening to a report about Clannad on the radio back in the 1970s.
I grew up in a musical family and my uncle played trad but he lived halfway across the world from me so I was never exposed to it, barring the drawer full of tin whistles in the dining room that I used to play along to the radio with.
I was bought a flute when I was nine or ten, another uncle and an esteemed friend of his (Lionel Blue, RIP) clubbed together to buy it for me. But I had a classical flute education - though oddly enough the first tunes I was taught were the mooncoin reel and the rakes of mallow.
I gave up the silver flute in my teens, being a bit of a punk. I think if I’d heard trad at that point I’d have kept at it.
In my early 20s I heard this guy’s videos, and was attracted to his channel on YouTube as he made arrangements of some of my favourite video game tracks for irish instruments:
Much later, ie a couple of years ago I went to a pub quiz with a friend who brought some others with them, and I got on very well with one of them, so we arranged to go for a pint in the pub just up the road later in the week. It happened to be session night… Well about halfway through I went, gosh I know that tune (the blarney pilgrim) it was in titanic. Do you want to go to a real party? I thought. I’d actually been trying to teach it to myself a couple of weeks before on my old yamaha. Anyway the gist of it is, we went back every week and I got a lovely boyfriend out of it and a lot of tunes in my head.
Listening to John Peel in the early to mid seventies. He touched alot of bases.
Late seventies living upstairs from Irish people in Turnpike Lane in London The boys worked on the buildings and the girls worked for the NHS
At night they d get the fiddles boxes whistles and guitars out. We’d hear their music in the breaks between our dub reggae and punk . They used to invite us down and we d listen . I played a bit of guitar already so I bought a mandolin and learned Out on the Ocean so I could join in.
Several things all came together around the same time to convert me to the music. I was always a musician having playing electric guitar in Rock bands through my teens and 20s. I was always the kind who liked to dig into the roots of the music I liked. Punk Rock lead me to 60s/70s Rock lead me to Blues and Jazz. Over the course of a couple of years in my late 20s, 3 things happened.
1) I stumbled across the Thistle and Shamrock radio show broadcast by Fiona Richie.
2) I stumbled across an Irish Music session at a local Irish Pub
3) Because of 1 & 2 I bought The Best of the Chieftains.
That was enough start me down the path. From looking for similar music to the Chieftains, I found the Bothy Band and Planxty and other music from the Trad/Folk revival of the 70s. As I got more interested in the music over the next several years, the groups I liked began to lead me to the individual musicians in those bands and their influences. I followed the trail back to Ennis, Coleman, Clancy, Killoran, Morrison, etc.
Eventually I became obsessed with the music to the point that (as a musician) I wanted to learn to play it. I was entranced by the sound of the pipes but knew they were an expensive investment for someone completely new to Irish music, so I picked up a whistle as an inexpensive starting point. It took me several attempts and a few years to actually get a handle on things and stick with it. I think I started playing whistle with dedication at age 39. Whistle eventually lead me to get my flute at age 41…don’t know if I’ll ever get around to the pipes since I’ve really fallen in love with the flute now
Personally, there has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of Irish folk music. This was alongside folk music from Britain(and related traditions). I was basically brought up on it all. Dances, folk clubs festivals, music and song at home, the whole thing. It was just a normal part of life, and still is. I never rebelled from the music my parents introduced me to, why would I, it’s brilliant and the most rebellious music you can think of in reality.
Aldon Sanders: I have to break it to you that what you describe as your Irish music awakening was actually English. It’s not surprising, since the traditions are pretty close in many ways, but I find it a shame that the English side of things so often gets overlooked.
The folk song suite, or rather the “English Folk Song Suite”, was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams and of course uses English folk song tunes. Gustav Holst also used English folk melodies in his works. For example Holst did use a tune you mention, Dargason (also known as Sedany), which is an old English tune dating from the 16th century at least.
Seems we’ve got a lot of flute players here. Good stuff, sez I. I forgot to mention Thistle & Shamrock. It started nationally around the time I was starting out in 1983. I recorded every show for about a year and would see the artists (whose names I now knew) when they came to town, which was often in those days. Saw them all, usually in intimate venues. I met Fiona Ritchie a few years later, to whom I had written and gifted with a fine and beautiful flute of porcelain made by a superb artist and craftsman that I have known for many a year. Profound days!
Andrew Wigglesworth: Thank you for the correction. I guess I have to change my answer to, “I came to Irish music by thinking English tunes were Irish tunes.” Anyway, I did end up playing & enjoying listening to Irish music, so I got there eventually!
And on that, I have been busting to say (but didn’t want to distract) that the music in the Popeye cartoons (as mentioned earlier) were not Irish whatsoever. See en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Popeye_Song_Folio
Hi Gobby: Wikipedia lists songs with lyrics that were used in the Popeye cartoons, but not the names of the incidental background music. I do remember hearing Jack’s the Lad (aka The College Hornpipe) when watching Popeye. Is that not an Irish tune?
If it’s not, then all of my inspirations to play Irish music came from sources that weren’t Irish. That amuses me!
I started Irish Dancing after playing piano/organ for a number of years, and then I was surrounded by the music. I eventually decided that I wanted to play the music, and didn’t want to carry a piano around 🙂 … so I decided to learn fiddle. (The album that helped me with the instrument choice was Lost in the Loop by Liz Carroll)
I might be wrong, but I always thought that “Jack’s the Lad/College Hornpipe” is English. There’s a UK group called the Seven Dials Band that play music in the time of Dickens, and it’s one of their tracks, I believe the first one. Happy to be corrected about origin.
Yes, it’s an English hornpipe to my knowledge, though I will await CMO to pass final judgement (our residential expert in my opinion). But I understand what you are saying Aldon, in a way it is all cross connected and young ears tend to make whatever they think of it. It took me years to know the difference between a hornpipe and a shanty. I earlier mentioned my very early discernment of Irish music on the radio way back in the 1950’s, but I may well have not ever known it was Irish except for the fact that it came from Radio Erin,which my dad always listened too and promoted. And Popeye was great, by the way. There’s a song they don’t mention in that list and it annoys me. Big Popeye fan!
I was crawling through YouTube looking for classical flute pieces which were: easy enough for a beginner (I had spent a year learning how to play silver flute), musically sound and not very well-known (i.e. not played to death). Found a nice rendition of two Bach’s menuettes played on grenadilla Boehm flute. YouTube then decided to show me more clips featuring timber flutes. The first link led to Kevin Crawford or Mike McGoldrick, can’t remember. Anyway, after a life-changing mouse click it took either of those gentlemen about 5 seconds to convert me into Irish Trad.
I was busking one day when I was 15 and supposed to be in school. A man came by, dropped me a coin and said ‘why are you playing all of this classical stuff? If you played something lively like Irish music, you’d make twice the money or more.’ At the end of the day, I scraped the coins out of my case and bought a book of Irish tunes. That was 25 years ago, he was right, and I’ve never looked back. I live in Australia, so it’s not something I’d been exposed to much. Thanks to that man, I’ve travelled around Ireland and played.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of “folk music” in the broadest sense of the word, including the Irish songs and tunes I occasionally encountered. But it’s little more than five years ago that I really fell in love with Irish trad - especially the tunes: In preparation for our first trip to Ireland, I started listening and learning in earnest, then found myself pulling out a rarely-played fiddle and registering for Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering. I was hooked! I was nearly 60 then. With such a late start, I’ll never be a great player, and I’ll only scratch the surface of the tradition. I’ll be content if I can keep up in my local sessions. Even so, playing this music brings me great joy. And listening to really fine Irish musicians makes my heart dance! I wish I’d discovered this music sooner. I’m very glad it’s part of my life now.
Allan Block, 1980 (I’d been a professional harpsichordist for ten years by then, specializing in the improvised accompaniment styles), then David Levine, then the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia. . . where in spite of my “illegal instrument” (5-octave double-bass hammer dulcimer), I got to meet a lot of ITM legends over the years, and was asked to join in sessions and even concerts with them.
I still take shameless advantage of my being a backup artist.
My mother was a music teacher and she played the piano. She liked to accompany herself on the piano while she was singing various songs such as “My Wild Irish Rose”; “The Kerry Dance”; “The Minstrel Boy”; “Wearing of The Green”; and “Who Put The Overalls In Mistress Murphy’s Chowder”. My mother thought those were typical Irish songs.
In 1980 or 1981, when I was an enlisted man in the Navy and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, there was a folk festival at a local college called Old Dominion University. One of the bands which performed at this festival was a group called “Touchstone”. Their piano player, Triona Ni Dhomnhaill, was a former member of the Bothy Band. A few hours before Touchstone performed, Triona and another musician taught a workshop on Folk Piano which I attended. This experience opened both my eyes and my ears to the variety of Irish music. One of the sponsors of the festival was a local music store. I bought a copy of O’Neill’s at this store and began trying to play some of the tunes in this book.
After I was honorably discharged from the Navy and came back home, I had to play this music by myself at home until some other musicians here started an Irish Session in 1995. I went to the second Session and listened. Then I bought my genuine fake imitation ersatz piano (a Roland Digital Piano) to the local Sessions and have been participating in the local Sessions more or less off and on irregularly as their piano player.
I have learned that there is much more to Irish music than the songs my mother liked to sing and play. Participating in the local Sessions as a pianist has been educational for me.
When I was at NUU (New University Of Ulster) in 1971 or so I happened to be in Letterkenny folk festival at a session. I was sitting next to a lovely looking girl ( I was a bit tipsy I must admit) and I said that’s a lovely tune the band are playing right now. She turned to me and said ‘Will you come home with me?’
I thought for a moment or two but not very long and I said ‘I’d love to’.
‘NO,No,No’she said - that’s the name of the tune!
And for ever more I have been in a relationship with ITM! It’s true.
I give another shout out to Fionna Richie and Thistle and Shamrock. Listening to that show certainly made me realize this was artistic music that demanded skill. I would say that was the gateway drug most responsible for opening my eyes to the potential of the music to reach back centuries and still be relevant for modern expression. Maybe the first ITM show I can remember going to and really enjoying was the band Colcannon playing to a sold out U of Wyoming A&S auditorium in 1998 or there abouts.
Probably sounds cheesy, but I was absolutely mesmerized by that scene in the movie Titanic where the crew has a party in the third class deck with Irish dance music. I believe it was John Ryan’s Polka. Its made we want to play music like that where people can’t help but get up and dance.
My intro to Irish Trad came in the mid-1970s. Weirdly enough, I was interested in early music - medieval and renaissance stuff - which was really hard to find in those vinyl days.
But I had a friend whose hobby was to drive to the distant big city, buy maybe a dozen albums almost at random, then return those he didn’t like the next week for partial credit on his next batch.
He snagged the album _Chieftains 5_ and told me “Here, this is weird. _You_ might like it.” And I was hooked.